If you’ve never heard of Fannie Lou Hamer, you’re not alone. I was 30 years old when I learned of this amazing woman who fought for civil rights and stood up to the Klu Klux Klan.
February is Black History Month. But if you’re not black, please don’t let this month go by without learning something. Black history is not just for black people. It’s our history, all of us, and it is something we all need to know.
Most of us aren’t incredibly knowledgeable about history, and the average person’s understanding of black history hardly goes beyond Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
Many don’t know of Caesar Augustus, one of the first American casualties in the Revolutionary War.
Part of the fault lies in schooling. Growing up, I remember Black History Month being the time of year when posters of Martin Luther King Jr. went up at school, and not much else happened.
Schools across the country need to do a better job of teaching black history.
In part, the failure to teach black history in public schools reflects the continuing power of white supremacy in our public institutions, even if we are not aware of it.
Whitewashing history neglects to teach students about Greenwood, Oklahoma, the community known as “Black Wall Street,” one of the most successful black economies in the history of the United States. This community would teach students a counterargument to white supremacist tropes about black inferiority.
The destruction of “Black Wall Street” by white mobs in 1921, resulting in the death of about 300 black Americans.
But that incident, which left over 9,000 previously prosperous black people destitute and homeless, is part of American history. It’s part of everyone’s history.
If schools won’t teach black history, it falls to educating ourselves. Read a book on black history or pick up a classic work by a black author such as W. E. B. Du Bois or Zora Neale Hurston.
And if you want to learn about a brave woman who stood up to the KKK and a racist police system, read about Fannie Lou Hamer.
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